Oleksandr Usyk’s quest to conquer the heavyweight division is expected to begin with a matchup against a name that MMA and kickboxing fans should be quite familiar with.
The former undisputed cruiserweight champion reportedly has a deal in place to face ex-kickboxing star Tyrone Spong, per The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger. Spong has a bout against Jeyson Minda on Saturday night, and should he win and emerge unscathed as expected, then he’ll take on Usyk on October 12th in a DAZN-streamed main event in Chicago.
Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) is one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, establishing himself as such with an incredible run of victories in the cruiserweight division. Just in the World Boxing Super Series, he stopped ex-champ Marco Huck, eked out a thrilling decision over Mairis Briedis, and unified all four major titles with a comprehensive win over Murat Gassiev in the tournament final. He capped off his 2018 with a sensational KO of Tony Bellew before making the move up to heavyweight. The Olympic gold medalist was scheduled to fight Carlos Takam in May, but withdrew due to a biceps injury.
Spong (13-0, 12 KOs) has a mostly empty boxing record, with former cruiserweight title challenger Santander Silgado representing his best win, and he sure as hell ain’t a heavyweight. The only fighter he’s failed to KO was Ytalo Perea in his most recent bout, taking a split decision last December. Spong is much better known as once being one of the top kickboxers in the world, beating the likes of Remy Bojansky, Peter Aerts, Nathan Corbett, and Saulo Cavalari throughout his decorated career. The heavy-handed Spong hasn’t kickboxed since his awful leg fracture against Gokhan Saki in 2014. Spong also fought twice in MMA under the WSOF banner, winning by KO against Travis Bartlett and earning a decision vs. Angel DeAnda.
Initially, the plan was for Usyk vs. Takam to be rescheduled for this October card, but Takam signed on with a new promoter and the purse demands apparently changed, so that went out the door. Terms were agreed for Usyk to then fight Andrey Fedosov, but Usyk apparently doesn’t want to stoke Ukraine-Russia political tensions further by taking on a Russian fighter. This is heavyweight, so options were thin, and Spong was one of the frontrunners by virtue of somehow being ranked #5 in the WBO’s heavyweight list.
Is this fight competitive on paper? Hell no! Is Spong historically fun to watch, known for his knockout power, and thus this should be reasonably compelling viewing just out of complete curiosity? Hell yeah!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to explore how Tyrone Spong can flummox Usyk with unorthodox kickboxing angles...